Grass Fed Beef

At Native Sun, we know that beef shouldn’t always be for dinner, but when it is, we believe it should be local and grass-fed.

What’s wrong with grains?

With most commercial beef cattle currently fattened using a grain fed diet in order to cut costs, meat-eating consumers have suffered along with beef’s dietary reputation. Although grain provides cattle farmers with a cheap alternative feed source, cattle naturally thrive on a diet of leafy green vegetables.

Why grass-fed?

For the cattle:

Unlike humans and other single-stomached creatures, cattle and other grazing animals have the unique ability to digest and convert grass into a high-quality food source (Pollan, 2002). Known as ruminants, cattle possess a specialized stomach chamber referred to as the rumen. Inside the rumen, a population of digestive bacteria work feverishly to extract organic acids, proteins, and
other nutrients from the grasses the cattle ingests. Forcing cattle to adapt to a grain fed diet severely inhibits the digestive abilities of the rumen and can actually “kill the animal if not managed carefully and accompanied by antibiotics” (Pollan, 2002).

For Health:

As cattle are fattened on a gluttonous diet of nearly indigestible grains, their meat develops a higher overall fat concentration while the presence of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids decreases (Pollan, 2002). In contrast, allowing cattle to graze freely on fresh grasses greatly increases the total amount of omega-3 fatty acids present in the meat and also generates a much leaner cut of beef (Clapham W.M. et al., 2009). In addition, grass fed beef contains richer deposits of the beneficial fat CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) and vitamin E (Clapham W.M. et al., 2009).

For the environment:

When cattle are allowed to graze for forage in open pasture, their manure provides natural fertilization, rejuvenating the soil and reducing the need for expensive fossil fuels (Eat Wild, 2011). In contrast, the cattle raised on massive feed lots consume grain shipped to them in a process that consumes tremendous amounts of fossil fuels (Eat Wild, 2011). With limited space and lots of cattle, the manure builds up in feed lots, releasing ammonia and other gasses that sicken both humans and animals (Eat Wild, 2011). When feed lots transport excess manure to the surrounding land, it becomes oversaturated with nutrients, creating damaging runoff in rivers, streams, and estuaries (Eat Wild, 2011). Typically smaller in scale, with a greater emphasis placed on the health of the animals and the environment, grass fed operations help reduce erosion, water pollution, and concerns regarding proper utilization of organic waste (“Grazing Lands,” 1995). Further, as the grasses, legumes, and shrubs that dominate grazing lands photosynthesize, they help reduce the total amount of carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere, hopefully reducing the effects of global warming and working to preserve the environment for future generations (“Grazing Lands,” 1995).

Whether you’re planning a weekend cookout with hamburgers and hotdogs or a fancy steak dinner, we hope that you make the decision to support local grass fed beef!

Make no bones about it, the cattle, environment, and your body will thank you!

References:
Clapham, W.M., Duckett, S.K., Fontenot, J.P., Neel J.P.S., (June 2009). Effects of winter stocker growth rate and finishing system on: III. Tissue proximate, fatty acid, vitamin, and cholesterol content [Electronic version]. Journal of Animal Science. Retrieved January 31, 2011 from http://jas.fass.org/cgi/content/abstract/jas.2009-1850v1

Eat Wild, (2011). Grassfarming benefits the environment. Retrieved January 31, 2011 from http://eatwild.com/environment.html

Pollan, M. (2002). Power Steer [Electronic version]. The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved January 31, 2011 from http://michaelpollan.com/articles-archive/power-steer/

United States Department of Agriculture, National Resources Conservation Services, (1995). Grazing Lands (RCA Issue #6 November 1995) [Electronic Version]. Washington, DC. Retrieved January 28, 2011 from http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/rca/ib6text.html